Because planning a program doesn't just take 5 minutes


Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary ThingsfrindleProgram Plan:

Start off with frindle-shaped snacks (we had watermelon cut into strips, plain breadsticks, and cream-filled wafer cookies) and discussion. If we run out of things to talk about, try the discussion questions.

Split up into teams of 4 (let them decide whether to have kid teams and adult teams, or arrange teams by family with a mix of kids and adults on each) and play the Dictionary game.  Each team looks through the dictionary and chooses one obscure word they think no one else will know.  They then make up 3 false definitions.  Each team takes a turn reading out the word and the 4 definitions.  The other team needs to guess which is the correct definition of the word.

a) a person who is easily fooled
b) an imitation flavoring, used mostly in fast food
c) a rough silk fabric
d) a pair of identical items

Teams get 1 point for each definition they guess correctly and 2 points if no one is able to guess the definition of their selected word.  Maybe have some prize frindles for the winning team?  (The answer is c, by the way.  In case you were wondering.)

Decorate your own frindle, based on the DIY neon pen found here. I first tried the standard Bic Cristal pens, as shown on the book cover, but they were super hard to make – the ink fit too tightly into the barrel to squish paper in there too. I had better luck with Pentel RSVP pens (wider, rounder barrel), brightly colored origami paper (thin and easier to fit in), and extra fine point Sharpies for decorating.  Here’s my favorite frindle, which I now use at my desk on a daily basis.



What Happened:

We didn’t spend a lot of time on book discussion.  To start, we went around the table and let everyone say what they thought of the book so that everyone would get at least one turn.  Again, few of the parents had read it.  (Still not sure why the Mother-Daughter Book Club moms get that they should read the book and these ones don’t; is it just the club name?)  Most of the boys said it was “better than I expected” although one didn’t like it enough to finish it and another said it was unrealistic that the word spread so far.  This jumped us into questions #3 and #4, about why it was believable and whether it would be easier or harder for it to happen today.  The boys weren’t familiar with the phrases “social media” or “going viral,” so this might be something the parents could have weighed in on more – if they had, um, read the book.  This took about 15 minutes, and we moved on to the Dictionary game.

When the families came in, they sat with kids on one side of the room and adults on the other – I think a lot of the parents know each other and looked at this as a social opportunity – so we had two teams of boys and two of parents.  The parents were actually quite competitive, which was entertaining (for me.)  If we were playing with just kids, I would have been able to use some of the kids’ or student dictionaries we have in the department, but I needed to get unabridged dictionaries to make sure there were words that the adults wouldn’t know.  Choosing the words took a long time.  If I were going to do this again, I would give each team a word with the real definition and just have them make up the three fake definitions.  I might also not mix lemonade and adult reference materials; both kids’ tables had spills.  With a different group, I would consider making mixed teams of kids and adults, which might also help with the rowdy behavior, but the adults were having so much fun together, I’d hate to break them up!  The game ended in a three-way tie.

The discussion plus one round of Dictionary took almost the full 45 minutes, but everyone – adults and kids – made at least one pen too.  As expected, the boys had some trouble rolling the papers around the barrels, but since they all finished at different times, I was able to help them.

Before the craft, I introduced the three possible reads for next month: How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell, How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail, by Tod Olson, and Pirategology, by William Lubber.  I have been struggling a bit with choosing titles that will appeal to both the boys and their parents (although I still haven’t gotten the parents to actually read the book most months.)  I had a feeling that the parents – especially the moms – were looking for narrative fiction, while the boys might be more open, so I had kids and adults vote on different colored papers so I could see if there were any differences.  I have also been debating whether to choose titles myself in the future, which makes PR much easier, or whether to let the participants each month choose the next month’s title, so I also let them vote on whether or not they wanted to vote in the future.

While they worked on the craft, I tallied results.  I was not totally surprised by the results.  There were 9 boys and adults in attendance.  Eight boys and 7 adults voted.  They all wanted to vote for the July book at the June meeting, so I guess I need to come up with another three titles soon.  As for the book choice, the final tallies were:

  • How to Eat Fried Worms: 5 adults, 3 kids
  • How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail: 1 adult, 3 kids
  • Pirategology: 1 adult, 2 kids

So, as I suspected, the kids were pretty open, while the adults preferred narrative fiction.  I will see if this holds as time goes on.

The whole program took about an hour.  Every time I have an internal debate about changing the official program time to one hour instead of 45 minutes, I remember talking about Alvin Ho the first month and remember that even with the craft we barely made 45 minutes.  Especially with the parents in the room, I don’t feel too bad about having the program run over.


Possible questions for discussion:

(Most of these were borrowed from Multnomah County Library).

  1. Was Mrs. Granger a good teacher?  Why or why not?  What qualities does your favorite teacher have?
  2. Before reading this book, had you ever thought about how words are created? What did you find interesting about the process of creating a word?
  3. Is it believable that the word “frindle” became so well known? Why or why not?
  4. This book was written in 1996, before the internet and social media really took off.  Do you think the existence of social media would make a difference to the events in the story?
  5. “Every good story,” Mrs. Granger writes to Nick, “needs a bad guy, don’t you think?” Do you agree? Does every good story have a villain? Can you think of any that don’t?
  6. Andrew Clements writes that “School was the perfect place to launch a new word.” Why? What makes schools such good breeding grounds for fads? Can you think of any fads at your school?  Did any of them stick?
  7. Although Nick didn’t know it until he turned 21, his new word earned him a huge amount of money. Do you think his parents were right in setting up a trust fund for him? What do you think he might have done with the money if he could have spent it earlier? What would you do if you suddenly had a lot of money of your own?
  8. Frindle has been nominated for and has won several children’s choice awards. Why do you think this book is so popular?

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